Differentiating Math Instruction with Khan Academy
Can We Meet the Needs of Every Student with One Lesson?
It is nearly impossible to deliver instruction that meets the needs of every single student in your classroom in one lesson. Experienced teachers know that once a lesson is delivered, and students are given the opportunity to practice skills taught, every student learns at his or her own pace. Sometimes students achieve mastery of a concept on their first attempt, but sometimes they fall behind as the teacher moves on to the next concept or next level of difficulty. Not every student remembers each point of the teacher’s instruction. This is where Khan Academy can play an important part of the learning process. Traditionally, students who struggle with concepts taught may use the support of a peer, or the teacher may help a student get through any problems he or she may experience. Well, what about the student who is too embarrassed to admit he or she is struggling with a concept everyone else seems to understand immediately? What about the special education classroom where every single student has a completely different learning profile, each working at completely different levels of instruction? What does one teacher do when faced with such variables? It seems that Khan Academy (and other sites that similar to Khan) may have some answers for us.
Differentiating Math Instruction
As an experienced educator, I truly believe in differentiating instruction for students. I often try at least five different things with members of my class in order to make sure that every student learns what they can from my instruction. In math for example, I present a variety of ways to approach or solve a problem. Students in my class always have access to a variety of tools to support them as they solve math problems, from simple scrap paper, individual white boards, manipulatives, and of course anchor charts, rubrics, and what I call “help sheets”, which are laminated sheets with tips, steps, formulas, and strategies common in math. Differentiating instruction is a very important part of the teacher’s role, and all good teachers do it. However, what teachers cannot do is repeat instruction each time a student requires us to do so. Students who require much repetition in order to master a concept benefit from the videos prepared and posted by Salman Khan.
Khan Academy Mathematics
In addition to the videos, Khan Academy offers a wide variety of math practice drills, which begin very simply, and build in complexity based on the students’ achievement. What I love the most is that when a student struggles with a problem posed, there is a video that demonstrates how to do it right. Imagine the implications for visual/auditory learners, who are too embarassed to ask the teacher or a peer for help, and who do not want to open a textbook and review the static examples provided. These students have the power to watch a video to see where they went wrong, then go back and continue working where they left off. An added benefit to the videos and practice drills available online is that they are available 24-hours a day, unlike the classroom teacher. Students can access tutorials from home or their local library in order to practice and consolidate their skills after school and on weekends.
Web-based Practice Tools
However, I am a true believer that one size does not fit all. Your students may prefer to use a different online tool to practice their Math skills, and I have provided several great examples in two of my previous posts: Five Great Educational Game Websites and Making Math Fun with IXL Learning. Websites like Khan Academy, IXL, and Sumdog can be used both in and out of the classroom. Web-based practice is a fabulous tool which builds student engagement. Teachers with interactive white boards can use these sites to support their instruction, using problems posed on these sites in a variety of ways – for example, direct instruction; tutoring at lunch; and group work.
In order to understand what works best for you, you need to be aware of the options available to you. Khan Academy is a great option and free for everyone! The amount of attention Salman Khan has received thus far is certainly a testament to the power of Khan’s approach. To learn more about Khan Academy and its founder, Salman Khan, visit http://www.khanacademy.org/. You can also follow this link to view a video clip from ABC News.